Late 19th century
Carved wood and metal
Height: 35.5 cm – 14 in.
Ex Sotheby’s London, 28-30 nov. 1983, lot 185
Possibly Merton Simpson (1928-2013), New York
Ex collection Seymour Lazar, Palm Springs, USA
Erich M. von Hornbostel notes in "Fang" (Musée Dapper, 1997), that music plays a very important role in the life of the Fang. Musical instruments are played to provide the rhythm and underlie the melody of ritual or secular choral songs (…). Solo or choral songs are accompanied by the flute and the harp.
This typology of harp descends from an instrument already known in the time of ancient Egypt.
According to Louis Perrois, all the significant activities of customary life among the Fang had to be conducted under the aegis of the ancestors. This is why many carved objects were adorned with the face of an ancestor, which was the customary mark of lineage chiefs.
The head finial on a ñgomi harp was a reminder that the melody played upon the strings was the “voice” that permitted contact with another world, that of the spirits and the deceased.